What does that mean for the average Vermonter? It could mean a lot. To say that changes are coming would be an understatement. Of course, there will be changes for many in health insurance. Starting later this year most Vermonters who work for small companies will be venturing out to the new health care exchange to purchase their health insurance. And while most of these changes were mandated either by the federal “Obamacare” laws, or laws enacted by prior Vermont Legislatures, the changes will take effect this fall.
But the current Legislature will have done its fair share of work. Whether that work is viewed as good work or not is up to individual Vermonters. Two bills that appear to be destined to be signed into law are marijuana decriminalization and “death with dignity” or physician-assisted suicide. Some Vermonters will see these as enlightened laws from a progressive Legislature and others will see them as bills that go too far in relaxing the state’s moral standards. It’s really up to the individual interpretation.
Speaking of individual interpretation, one can say that the state’s top political leaders have a unique interpretation about tax increases. Gov. Shumlin and legislative leaders were crowing this week about a compromise on the budget for the next fiscal year. Part of that compromise involved finding $10 million in budget savings, instead of increasing taxes to cover the budget gap. Because of this, leaders were able to say they reached a budget deal without increasing taxes.
Well, maybe for this particular part of state spending. But there have been tax increases this year.
But what about the state gas tax? It already went up on the first of the month. In fact, the political leaders fast-tracked that tax increase so the governor could sign it and the state could begin collecting revenue on the increase early, instead of the usual July 1 start date for new laws to take effect. Legislators were also considering a hike to the cigarette tax. No doubt one can argue that a “sin” like the cigarette tax can be used as a tool to reduce consumption, but a tax increase is still a tax increase.
So when is a tax increase not a tax increase? Apparently, it’s when a politician says it’s not a tax increase. We understand that taxes have to happen to allow government to function and that sometimes they have to be increased. But don’t say the state is not raising taxes, when it’s very plain to see that many taxes are indeed being raised.
Again, it’s all about how one looks at something.